Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Left, Social Justice and UFT Caucuses

I found this in draft mode from Oct. 2017

Michael Fiorillo has left a new comment on your post "Luis Reyes on UFT: I believe in social change, red...":
Unions by definition are institutions that enable social justice, by focusing on democracy in the workplace and fair treatment for all workers, which is to say, most people in society.

It's a shame that what remains of the Left in the US fails to realize this, and it's a major reason it is so easily ignored. As long as it refuses to focus on issues that affect working people, it will continue to be ignored, and will deserve it....

Michael Fiorillo
My evolving position has been that I don't want to be in a caucus that doesn't pay attention to social justice work. But I also am concerned when a caucus focuses mostly on SJ work and doesn't pay enough attention to the daily travails of UFT members. And when we sense some imbalance we try to push back to get the ship balanced. That is not always easy when dealing with social justice warriors who salivate at a cause but yawn at issues such as bad bulletin board policy.

One of the problems I've had for years with MORE is the declaration that it is THE social justice caucus - as if Unity and New Action are not interested in social justice issues like MORE is. I know New Action people for a long time and  they often kept the SJ stuff out of their work which focused on bread and butter - I remember being critical of them for that 15 years ago -- they are also supportive of SJ work as individuals.

When I've been in an opposition caucus in the UFT at various times since 1970, they have always had elements of social justice. And they have always been left, which is why the leadership so despised them. In those early years, we had real issues with the leadership over SJ due to the 1968 strike and certain positions the UFT leadership took on many issues.

This was pointed out by Luis Reyes in his comment:
In the 1970s, Albert Shanker (R.I.P.), wrote in his that bilingual education was "...unamerican and separatist."
But the UFT began to change - at least on the surface, as pointed out by Reyes:
In 1984, I reached out to  Sandra Feldman (R.I.P.), to start a dialogue with the UFT leadership. Latino and other bilingual leaders met with leaders of the UFT; and, together we started a movement that resulted in the UFT changing its position on bilingual education and supporting state LEP Aid. Today Evelyn DeJesus, a Puerto Rican bilingual educator from the Lower East Side is the Vice President for Education and Carmen Alvarez continues to be the V.P. for Special Education. 
When Randi took over for Sandy around 1997 she escalated the union's work in the SJ arena and mended many fences Shanker had breached. She is in fact a genius at doing this kind of work.

So if a caucus is to dent the Unity machine it will not be on the basis of it not doing SJ work. As a sage person told some of us in an email yesterday:
The UFT membership at large is as pissed as I have ever seen. Some teachers hired from September 2004 onward are just figuring out now that they have to do the 100 hours of PD on their own dime and time. I was surprised that there are people who still don't know this. Some are vowing not to do the PD and let themselves get fired. I don't know if they are serious but they blame the UFT. Virtually everyone hates Danielson, even if they are highly effective. Teachers kill the UFT on Danielson. Did I mention an ATR or two might just be a little angry with the UFT response to the press attacks? Then there's the lousy raises, lack of support on grievances or just for speaking up, the ordeal of getting tenure, teachers having to pass every kid whether or not they deserve it, school safety, abusive administration, etc.... I could go on and on. Someone quite correctly said we have to eat a shit sandwich every day.
The wise man names just a few issues of concern. Unless a caucus focuses on addressing these issues, it won't resonate with enough members to make much of a dent.

At an Ex Bd meeting we heard case after case of the UFT's work - Arthur reports examples:
Serbia Silva—Stands on behalf of Evelyn de Jesus. ELL event amazing. Evelyn thanks volunteers and staff. Second—same goes for Making Strides. Walked in five boroughs and LI. Thanks all volunteers.
Howard Sandel—Nurses—Rescue work—9/18, Maria made landfall on Dominica. We had nurses there up all night organizing. Set up 53 medical volunteers. Were there 7 days. Visited villages, cared for 818 patients, conducted home visits, distributed items across island. With help of this union we provided rescue workers with backpacks. She expresses gratitude to union. Will be stories in NY Teacher. Nurses gave up two weeks vacation in PR, were not allowed to distribute supplies. Stuck in San Juan. Started Gofundme page. Finally moved. Showed people how to purify water. Thanks everyone.
UFT Executive Board October 16, 2017--We Were Against APPR Before We Were For It -
Mulgrew, who has been so much more responsive this year at the EB meetings -- he even answers questions from the opposition and actually acts like they are in the room --- and I believe this is due to the wonderful work our EB people have been doing --- said this:
We have 30 nurses in Puerto Rico. Leaving Wednesday. May go to Texas. Florida progressing. Huge burden on all of those members. In PR teacher building is hub for distribution. Spoke with governor and mayor. I would like to not have holiday party and make major contribution to those places. Right thing to do. So many people hurting. When we hurt from Sandy people came from all over to help us. This would say a lot. Asking them in lieu of coming to contribute to our disaster relief fund.
Unity is doing social justice work -- and is so much more diversified racially than the opposition groups. Something nags at me in saying THE SJ Caucus, as if the other work doesn't count.

That led to Michael Fiorillo's  comment.

I am going to repeat myself:
A group of us in MORE have been contending that if we want to challenge the UFT leadership, it has to be on issues where they have not supported the members, not on how social justicey they are.

Greece is the Word - Yassas

I wanted to share a few words about my first trip to the cradle of democracy. I learned all about ostracism in ancient Greece ---

"Ostracism (Greek: ὀστρακισμός, ostrakismos) was a procedure under the Athenian democracy in which any citizen could be expelled from the city-state of Athens for ten years. While some instances clearly expressed popular anger at the citizen, ostracism was often used preemptively."

A happy wife makes a happy life
Which is very funny considering some of the things that I found going on in MORE when I returned. Did they have sectarian political parties in Greece? But more of that in future posts.

The trip was fairly brief - a long way to go for 8 days - actually 5 days on the tour and 2 plus in Athens. But we were hoping to get back to do some serious gardening and found it still too cold. We should have added a few days and seen the islands.

Greece was not a nation until the 1820's - in ancient times it was all city-states. The Olympics and other similar events were ways to stopping the fighting and all Greeks to come together. Maybe we can have some relay races between caucuses in the UFT.

But this was a land tour only. We went with Insight Tours, a British based company, which was great. Best tour we've had. We already booked Croatia through Road Scholar for October but next year we may do Ireland and Scotland through Insight.

We left late Saturday night, April 9, and got to Athens at 4 PM on Sunday, Greek Orthodox Easter.  All eateries around our hotel were closed - so we rested at our excellent hotel for an hour and then headed out for a very long walk to the Plaka -- I think we did over 3 miles over all - jet lag and all and ate at the first place we found - not great -- we saw after that if we had walked another block we would have found lots of great places to eat. We passed ancient ruins all over the place - remarkable stuff over 2000 years old.

The Acropolis towers over everything -- and Athens may be the only city with mountains you have to walk around.

Surprised to see a statue of me
And all of Greece was so green - the weather was perfect all week.

Monday was also a holiday - we began with one of the best buffet breakfasts we've had -- and I made at least 4 trips - yes I gained about 6 pounds on this trip-- but some things were open and we covered all parts of key areas of Athens. We learned to use an excellent subway system. We took it to the Syntagma Square near parliament where we saw the changing of the guard and then walked around the ancient Agora -- where the central market was thousands of years ago. Then walked around The Acropolis area - ate some lunch and finally headed back to the hotel for a rest before looking for a place for dinner - which we found a block from the hotel and it was so good - especially when they gave us soup, dessert and a shot on the house.

Tuesday we did the Archeological Museum and some other things that were not on the tour, which began Tuesday night with a meeting at the hotel. It's hard to get your head around how civilization goes back so far - even to 3500 BC. I'm not sure if we have advanced much at all.

We had met the guide on Monday when she called us and said she'd be around the hotel. Lovely lady - born in Scotland, grew up in the maritimes in Canada and married a Greek from Lesbos. She introduced us to an Australian couple and another Aussie traveling solo - they hadn't known each other but lived near each other around Brisbane, which we had visited 25 years ago.

We met everyone else at the Tuesday night meeting, followed by a buffet dinner at the hotel. We had 3 Aussies, Canadians, an English mom with 3 kids, a guy from the Philippines and another man from Hong Kong, now living in Pittsburgh -- and he's 83, and a nurse from California. Some had been on a 4 day cruise of the islands a few days before. Later we were sorry we didn't do that too but we may go back soon.

That is why we love to go on tours - meeting and bonding with so many people we would never have met. One couple we got close to is from Western Canada - they are 3rd generation farmers and I learned how a combine works. I may go out and visit and pick some crops.
The next 5 days were a whirlwind but we still felt fairly rested. Wednesday we met the coach and headed for the Acropolis and the museum for half a day. Hey, the Parthenon - I got a hundred photos from all angles. We had some lunch and then the coach left Athens to take us for a few hours drive to the Meteora monasteries, another world heritage site. We stayed for 2 nights in Kalambaka.

Thursday we did the monasteries --
So high up in the mountains -- that famous "For Your Eyes Only" James Bond/Roger Moore film where he escapes from there. Impossible to get there you would think. We went to 3 of them and then some of us walked down the mountain and back to the hotel and then off to a great lunch the guide, Moraig, took us too. That night she took us to a wonderful town called Trikala and a group dinner outdoors. She always made impeccable choices for us.

Two days and we felt we had been gone for a a long time already and also bonding with our tour mates.

Friday we headed for Delphi- after another buffet breakfast. Urp! - lox, lox, lox. Spent the day touring and moving and eating. Crossed the bridge over the Sea of Corinth -- and entered the Peloponesus -- basically a giant island that is half of Greece. We stopped at another seaside town - Napfpaklos -- wow - I could live there. Too busy a day to write everything.

Saturday - A half day at Olympia where it all began -- 776 BC - imagine - the Olympics basically went on for a 1000 years until they were ended when the Christians became ascendant around 350 AD -- there was the actual track they used. So much interesting stuff. I was taking a zillion photos. This is where they light the torch for all current games. We had lunch and some went back to the hotel while a few of us stayed in the town of Olympia to check it out for a few hours. A couple of guys went to an interesting little museum devoted to Archimedes and his inventions. Astounding stuff - we were in Syracuse on Sicily a few years ago and I bought an Archimedes tee shirt.  Then we went for a beer - I loved the Greek beer - until we caught the coach back to the hotel where we went for a swim in the pool. Moraig had a trainee - a woman originally from South Africa and her boss, Feona, who was from Scotland and married a Greek too - along on the entire trip. They took us to an outdoor restaurant where we learned to cook and then 2 lovely ladies led us in Greek dancing -- Feona took some video of me dancing and cooking -- I hope they never see the light of day.

Sunday -- our last full day -- unbelievable how fast it's gone but we were also felt we had done so much. Another buffet breakfast.  Headed to Mycenae - but  stopped at another seaside town - Nafplio - another place I could live -- I bought a pipe -- and then to meet the Mycenians - well not really, since they were a thousand years - 1600BC before the Greek heydays of 500-400 BC. Really hard to wrap out heads around all this - think of a thousand years ago for us - so Greeks in 500 BC were tourists to visit the ruins of Mycenae.
The main thing about Mycenae is that it is the supposed site of The Iliad -- now we have to go Troy in Turkey. 

Then crossing back into mainland over the Corinth Canal -- a narrow slip of a thing that in effect turns the Peloponnesus into an island. It was proposed 2000 years ago but not built until 1893 -- sort of like the 2nd Ave subway.

Farewell dinner that night at a local restaurant -- another great choice. Back at hotel we all hugged our new friends and went to our room. A knock at the door and our new Canadian friends -- the farmers asked us to help them finish off some ouzo. He is a Toronto Blue Jays fan and will be catching a game there in July. We may meet them and hope they come to NYC and stay with us.

Monday -- plane leaves at 4:30 PM and we are being picked up at 1:45. A final buffet breakfast - lox, lox, lox and more -- we run into the Aussies and say another good bye.  The guy traveling alone has a few months more to go -- an amazing guy who is in almost permanent travel mode. I told him I would check his itinerary and jump in some time -- the farmer from Canada even said he might be interested. A boys' trip.

We had a few hours. Most museums are closed Mondays but one was open and we walked over to the Museum of Cycladic Art - the Cyclades are islands between Greece and Turkey and had some remarkable civilizations 3200-2000 BC -- finally something older than me.

We got back to NYC around 9:30 PM at Newark and got home around 11. We signed up for Global Travel and got whisked through passport and customs control -- worth the $100 for 5 years.

Our cats were well -- we have an awesome 16 year old young man as a sitter and feel totally comfortable - he's a HS junior at Midwood and we hope he goes to Brooklyn College so we have him for another 5 years.

Tuesday I was back at hot yoga and all the stiffness from the trip was gone. And Weds I went to the delegate assembly and caught up on the MORE wars and all the tenseness that was gone on the trip came back.

One of the things I learned from the trip was that it is time to think about pulling back from blogging and UFT and MORE stuff. It's like a disease I can't get rid of.

Had a long noontime conversation with newly retired James Eterno who is so happy. We are both addicts to UFT politics.

We need a 12-step program.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

This year's tests are a disaster! -- NYSUT President Andy Paliotta

A companion piece to my earlier post:

NYSAPE: Commissioner Elia and the Board of Regents Continue to Fail New York’s Children; Parents Demand the Immediate Removal of Commissioner Elia

For months NYSUT has raised strong concerns and questions about SED's rush to implement computer-based testing. After a data breach earlier this year, NYSUT wrote a detailed letter to the State Education Department (SED) and Board of Regents, calling on them to put the brakes on computer-based testing. NYSUT has been expressing concerns about inequity for low-wealth districts; a lack of infrastructure and poor Internet capability in some schools, and whether computer-based testing accurately measures student learning — or just how well students can maneuver around a keyboard.

Notwithstanding NYSUT's warnings and concerns, students in nearly 300 schools sat down to their computers last Wednesday to test-drive the new English Language Arts computer-based tests in grades 3-8. Widespread reports of technology failures from teachers detailing disastrous system crashes; log-in failures and nonsensical answers for questions on the tests came flooding into NYSUT, news outlets and across social media.

Email the Commissioner and the Regents and share your experience with this year's first round of state testing.

Teachers in Victor, Saranac Lake, Shenendehowa and Spencerport, for example, reported some schools were unable to administer the computer-based tests properly because of technological failures. In at least one fourth-grade class in the Capital Region, students' entire tests were wiped out by malfunctioning computers. In Yonkers, some students "lost" their tests, while others attempting to answer multiple choice questions reportedly could only choose between four answers — all of which said “system error.”

While SED tried to call it a "glitch," NYSUT called last week's rush to computer-based testing nothing short of disaster! If children are going to sit for state standardized tests and are prepared to do their very best, SED must be able to guarantee that the tests are fair and accurate, and they don't leave kids anxious and rattled.

Last week's disastrous foray into computer testing, coupled with ongoing concerns about the benchmarks and developmental appropriateness of the tests, left children frustrated and teachers angry that their warnings were ignored. If SED wants to restore the trust and confidence of parents in its testing system, this isn't the way to do it.

Email the Commissioner and the Regents and share your experience with this year's first round of state testing.

Concerned about state testing? Get the Facts! Know your rights on opt-out.

In solidarity,

Andrew Pallotta
NYSUT President
P.S.:   Whether this testing disaster affected you or not, get the facts about opting out.

NYSAPE: Commissioner Elia and the Board of Regents Continue to Fail New York’s Children; Parents Demand the Immediate Removal of Commissioner Elia

Brooklyn public school parent and founding member of NYC Opt Out, Kemala Karmen, is calling on SED to notify every single parent of their right to refuse May’s upcoming math assessment. She added, “The state can and should halt its hellbent race towards computerized testing, for which it is clearly ill-prepared; stop farming out test construction to dubious for-profit companies; truly shorten the exams; and, most important, remove high stakes attached to the assessments.”... NYSAPE statement 
I have two posts (at least two) on the testing scandal/scam - this one from NYSAPE - the parent group and coming later the state teacher comments from NYSUT's Andy Pallotta -

This year's tests are a disaster!

Which is pretty interesting given that Andy was put in by Mulgrew and yet Mulgrew and the UFT are silent - but more on that later.

More information contact:
Lisa Rudley:
Jeanette Deutermann:
NY State Allies for Public Education - NYSAPE

Link to Press Release

Commissioner Elia and the Board of Regents Continue to Fail New York’s Children; Parents Demand the Immediate Removal of Commissioner Elia

Parents across the state demand that the Board of Regents act immediately to remove Commissioner MaryEllen Elia. It is time the Board of Regents exercises control over the State Education Department to stop the runaway train of anti-public school “reform” that the commissioner represents.

Last week’s 3rd-8th grade ELA testing was an epic--and avoidable--fail for the children of New York State. The problems began before the tests were even administered, continued during their administration, and will persist unless there is a radical shakeup in the leadership of the State Education Department; in the way in which information about the tests and participation in the tests is communicated to families; and in how the tests themselves are constructed, administered, and scored.

The twin disasters of this year’s botched computer-based tests and an even more flawed than usual ELA test design prove that Elia is unequal to her duties and lacks the competence to helm the education department. Our children deserve better.

Leading up to the tests, some districts sent letters to parents asking whether their children would be participating in the assessments. Others, including the state’s largest district, New York City, sent home testing “info” riddled with spin, distortion, and outright lies regarding test refusal and its consequences. Many disadvantaged communities told advocates that they did not know they had a right to refuse the tests, even though it is their children who are most likely to suffer the negative effects of school closure.

Amy Gropp Forbes, a mother active in NYC Opt Out, wrote in a letter addressed to Chancellor Betty Rosa, “I urge you to issue a formal statement that clarifies a parent’s right to refuse state testing for their children. If the state allows some parents the right to opt out of state exams, it MUST give ALL parents this right, and consequences to schools and districts across the state must be equitable.” Gropp Forbes received no reply.

That the BOR and SED stood by and let this situation transpire despite having been made fully aware of the inequity--a statewide NYSAPE letter writing campaign generated over 200 complaints of “misinformation and intimidation”--is inexcusable. The absence of state-issued guidance also allowed some schools and districts to intimidate potential test refusers by instituting “sit and stare” policies.

Further evidence of a dereliction of duty on the part of BOR and SED came last week during the state ELA exam. The problems far exceeded the typical complaints associated with the state’s standardized exams. In fact, the problems were so egregious that one Westchester superintendent felt compelled to apologize to his entire community for what students had to endure. Social media flooded with teacher and proctor reports of children crying from fatigue, confusion, angst, hunger, pain, and more.

“Any good teacher knows how to judge time in lessons and assessments,” stated Chris Cerrone, school board trustee from Erie County. “As soon as I saw the format when I received the instructions I knew something was wrong. Day 1 would be short. Day 2 would be too long.”

Jeanette Deutermann, founding member of NYSAPE and LI Opt Out questioned, “Who was actually responsible for the construction and final version of these assessments? SOMEONE is responsible; that someone is Elia and the Board of Regents. The worst test since the new rollout has happened on their watch. Until a more capable leader is in place, we demand that all work on the construction of future tests be suspended immediately.”

Ulster County parent, educator, and NYSAPE founding member Bianca Tanis attributed last week’s fiasco in part to the state’s adoption of untimed testing. “Both SED and members of the Board of Regents continue to ignore the egregious consequences of untimed testing, misleading the public by claiming that the tests are shorter. For many educators, administering this test was the worst day of their career. The truth is out, and it cannot be ignored.”

“Enough is enough,” declared Dr. Michael Hynes, Superintendent of Long Island’s Patchogue-Medford district. “Not only are children and educators suffering, but with this untimed policy the state is in violation of its own law, which caps testing at no more than 1% (9 hours) of instructional time. Where’s the enforcement?”

“For a decade or more, SED and its vendors have proved themselves incapable of creating valid, well-designed, non-abusive exams that can be reliably used for diagnostic purposes or to track trends in student achievement over time,” said Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters.

“Since the Common Core was introduced, these problems have only gotten worse, with tests so difficult and confusing that teachers themselves are at a loss as to how the questions should be answered. A report from the Superintendents Roundtable revealed that the NYS exams were misaligned to excessively high benchmarks, meaning far too many students are wrongly identified as low-performing,” said Marla Kilfoyle, Long Island public school parent, educator, and BATs Executive Director.

Brooklyn public school parent and founding member of NYC Opt Out, Kemala Karmen, is calling on SED to notify every single parent of their right to refuse May’s upcoming math assessment. She added, “The state can and should halt its hellbent race towards computerized testing, for which it is clearly ill-prepared; stop farming out test construction to dubious for-profit companies; truly shorten the exams; and, most important, remove high stakes attached to the assessments.”

Here’s a compilation of observations made by parents, administrators, and teachers about the numerous problems with this year’s NYS ELA state test, and the suffering it caused students.

NYSAPE calls on the Board of Regents to stand up for equitable and authentic learning & assessments and immediately remove Commissioner Elia.

#OptOut2018 Test Refusal Letter: English & Spanish

NYSAPE is a grassroots coalition with over 50 parent and educator groups across the state.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Ed News Overflows While I am Away - Cuomo Protects Unions From Janus

I've been traveling in Greece and will return later today but have tried to keep in rudimentary touch with the ed news. There is so much to report and my fellow bloggers have been doing a great job --- just check out the blogroll. Opt out and the awful tests is a hot item and with math tests coming soon I have a lot to report. But not till I get back and go through the backlog.

Another story is the rescue of the unions in our state where they won't have to offer services for those who drop out. I actually called for that a year ago but was told it would be illegal. While the UFT is what it is, I don't advocate leaving unless people who left actually tried to organize an alternative. But most of these people are whining but not capable of really doing much. So screw them.

I have been predicting for a year that the UFT and other unions are too much a fabric of the control of the members to be allowed to be weakened by Janus. And the red state rebellions with wildcat strikes have reinforced that point though it won't stop the Supreme Court from making us all right to work.

I believe that Unity has such tight control they can counter any moves towards militancy.

I don't have time to get into more details, so check out Arthur, James and Chaz and the comments.


Cynthia Nixon, Andrew Cuomo, and the UFT Learning Curve



We have copied below the entire new New York State law protecting unions. Thanks to Bennett Fischer for sending us the law.


Governor Cuomo Rescues The Unions From Janus

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Oklahoma Teachers End Walkout After Winning Raises and Additional ...

In a rush. Lots breaking out of Ok and Arizona - Diane Ravitch is posting like crazy on the news so check out her blog, like every hour.

More for ny times oklahoma teacher strike

Oklahoma Teachers End Walkout After Winning Raises and Additional ...
2 hours ago - For the second time in recent weeks, a teacher walkout has ended with educators extracting some concessions. ... Saying it had achieved all that it could with a walkout, Oklahoma's largest teachers' union on Thursday called for educators to return to the classroom and to shift their efforts to supporting ...

Teacher Walkouts Threaten Republican Grip on Conservative States ...
10 hours ago - As Arizona teachers laid the groundwork this week for a walkout, thousands of Oklahoma teachers stayed out of the classroom to protest low school budgets, and some in Kentucky continued their ... Last month, West Virginia's Republican-controlled government made concessions to striking teachers.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Fee-payers comprise about 11.8 percent of the United Teachers Los Angeles bargaining unit, 8.2% for San Diego Education Association

That's a pretty high number for LA before Janus. And there are reports the union may be pushing for a strike. That might keep more people paying - or the opp
But in the red states many strikers are not paying union dues though I haven't seen numbers. So when the stuff hits the fan it may not make a difference in some ways. But in others where the union leaderships are  weakened figuring out outcomes is a chess game. Do weaker union make it easier for rising wildcat actions? Will those looking to spark red state actions in strong union states see a sunny side of the street? Or will a weakening lead to an even further deadening of the members?
It is never about how good things should be but about how bad things are getting.
Antonucci at EIA and LA Report
Over most of California, the loss of agency fees will have only a small immediate effect on teacher unions. But in some areas and in some job categories the loss of revenue will be dramatic.

Unions keep details about the numbers and location of their fee-payers close to the vest, but I have those details for the California Teachers Association. For K-12 teachers and in almost all regions of the state, the number of fee-payers is small, ranging from 2 to 5 percent.

There are two key cities where the percentage is much higher —

Puerto Rico: Six months after Hurricane Maria, the island’s Department of Education announces plans to close 283 public schools.

The Indypendent

Six months after Hurricane Maria, the island’s Department of Education announces plans to close 283 public schools.

The Puerto Rican Department of Education announced Thursday that it would close 283 of the island’s public schools this summer.
Citing a decline in enrollment of nearly 39,000 students following Hurricane Maria’s battering of the island in September and severe financial problems stemming from the island’s fiscal crisis, the department stated that more than a quarter of Puerto Rican public schools are set to shutter.
This comes weeks after Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló signed into effect an educational reform law that authorized the creation of charter schools and use of school vouchers.
‘We are in the middle of a huge attack against public education’
Charter schools receive public school funds but are privately managed, often by for-profit corporations. They are almost always non-union and tend to hire young, inexperienced teachers who will work for less than their veteran peers. School vouchers divert public education funds to families who choose to send their children to private schools including religious schools. Since the school voucher covers only part of the cost of attending a private school, they mostly benefit wealthy families.
Hundreds of Puerto Rican students, parents, teachers and union leaders protested repeatedly in the months after Hurricane Maria as hundreds of the island’s schools failed to reopen. Noting the near-total privatization of the New Orleans public school system after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, they said they feared that the Department of Education would use the hurricane to further a pre-existing agenda of privatizing public schools for the benefit of private interests.
Rafael Feliciano Hernández, a former president of the Puerto Rican Federation of Teachers, spoke with The Indypendent about the Department of Education’s delays in reopening schools in November. “They wanted to close the schools for four months then to reopen them as charters,” he said. “We fought. We joined forces with the community.” Hernández and the other protesters succeeded in reopening more than 90 percent of public schools.
But with the latest news, protesters in Puerto Rico are taking to the streets again. Puerto Rico’s El Nuevo Día newspaper reports that the latest closures could displace more than 60,000 students and 6,000 teachers.
“We are in the middle of a huge attack against public education,”  Edwin Morales, vice president of the Federation of Teachers told The Indypendent. More than 10,000 rallied in San Juan after Governor Rosselló’s education plan was announced.

More -

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

San Diego Unified, Teachers Union OK Tentative Deal with Raises, Maternity Leave - Times of San Diego

Bucking a trend of labor strife in other states, the San Diego Unified School District and its teachers union the have reached a tentative three-year agreement that includes a new maternity leave benefit.

The parties reached agreement early Wednesday morning, following a 16-hour bargaining session and months of collaborative negotiations, the district said.

“We worked diligently with our partners at the San Diego Education Association to reach an agreement that will support the success of all our students,” said Superintendent Cindy Marten.
“This agreement will help compensate our teachers for their hard work, while also helping the district attract and retain new educators.”

The three-year tentative agreement includes

Monday, April 9, 2018

"GED Program to be cut in half, so charter school can expand"

Marjorie Stamberg: 

I'm hoping this can come before the E-board tomorrow and that we can get a resolution at the D.A. to stop the charter invasion and for everyone to come to the PEP April 25th for the vote.  This is not just another co-location (they are all important), but an attack on a historic African-American school in the heart of Bed-Stuy.  It's a push for gentrification that will drive long time residents out of the neighborhood.

Here is some information about our school's current struggle against a charter co-location that will cut our Brooklyn hub in half, as well as impact two transfer schools, a LYFE program and a D75 school. It's in the old Boys High School building on Marcy Avenue in BedStuy.  A key issue here is the gentrification of BedStuy which is pushing the public schools out.

Here is some local press coverage:

Here is a statement from a teacher
To Whom It May Concern, my name is Nicole Greaves and I am a teacher at Pathways to Graduation (P2G) an alternative program within the NYC Dept of Education (DOE) that prepares adolescents ages 17 - 21 years old for the TASC(GED) Examination. Currently we are located in the Old Boys High School in Bedford-Stuyvesant on Marcy Avenue along with Bed-Stuy Prep High School, Brooklyn Academy High School, Uncommon Collegiate Charter High School and the LYFE Center. P2G has maintained a presence in the building for over 20 years and has serviced thousands of Brooklyn youth during that time. 

On February 15th the Dept of Education issued a proposal to reallocate classroom space in the building which includes: 1. Consolidating Bed-Stuy Prep HS and Brooklyn Academy HS into one school. 2. Pathways to Graduation losing four classrooms, one administrative office and storage space in the basement 3. Relocate Brooklyn East Collegiate Charter Middle School into the building from their current location at PS9  

The proposed Building Utilization Plan (BUP) would give an overwhelming majority of classroom space to Uncommon Collegiate Charter High School and Middle School. They would occupy the 1st, 4th, 5th floors, four rooms on the 2nd floor and the basement. This reallocation of classroom space creates numerous and varied problems for the other three existing schools in the building. P2G would lose four classrooms and one administrative office if the plan is finalized. This would surely be a serious blow to our program and diminish the level of services and resources we can offer to our students. 

The teachers and staff at P2G are committed to saving our school and maintaining our presence in the Bedford Stuyvesant community as long as possible. There are a series of public hearings that will be taking place to address this issue before the final PEP Vote on April 25th at Murray Bergtraum High School. 

The first public hearing was held Monday evening in the auditorium at Old Boys High School, where students, staff and community members alike shared their concerns for the possible closing of schools and reduction of youth educational services in the neighborhood.

We would really like to get the word out to the city about the battle to save our school, the services we offer and the overwhelming need for our services in the community.  If we could get an article in your publication that would help us out greatly in reaching the greater New York community. 

Recently, our school was featured on News12 Brooklyn "Cool in School" news segment for the Bike Repair Program we offer our students. If the proposed reallocation of space were to happen, the classroom where the bike program is housed is threatened to be taken away and the program possibly ended. 

Message to Retirees: Our Lifelong Work Has Been Disparaged, Degraded, Marginalized and De-Professionalized

For the first time in UFT Chapter elections I've been working with the Retiree Advocate, which began as a New Action initiative but then broadened to include MORE and independents. The chapter elections are coming up and RA/MORE/NA are going to run against Unity. Unity gets 300 retiree members of the Delegate Assembly who act to reinforce Unity policies. If you are a retiree and interested contact
You only have until Tuesday April 10 to sign on to run for delegate. Don't worry, we ain't winning.


I wrote this piece for the campaign lit that will go out to all retirees. It is unedited and Gloria is fixing it up but I wanted to post this in case some of Ed Notes readers are interested in running.

Our Lifelong Work Has Been Disparaged, Degraded, Marginalized and De-Professionalized

UFT retirees spent their lives in public service working with public school children. While things in the NYC school system were never perfect, many of us left with a sense of self-respect for a job well done.

So it has been sad to watch over the past two decades as our profession has come under assault from many directions. The major blame for the failures of the system has fallen on teachers, not incompetent supervisors put in place by their supervisors, often with bad intentions to put pressure on the higher priced teachers to get them out of the system. The “bad” teacher wrap has been used against all teachers. Recent teacher protests in right-to-work states are only the head of the spear of massive teacher dissatisfaction nationwide over the disrespect, the false measuring from invalid tests, the labeling schools as failing, and attempts to connect invalid tests to teacher ratings and compensation. Our union leadership has not done an effective job of pushing back against this onslaught.

Under Bloomberg, over 150 schools were closed down, including most of the comprehensive high schools, with teachers instead of being placed by seniority which was done before the 2005 contract, being forced into an open market that was not very welcoming to those coming from schools branded as failing. Joel Klein’s implementation of the fair school funding formula in 2008 made it almost impossible for the higher salaried UFT members to get transfer. Many were tossed into ATR pools of floating substitutes. Mayor de Blasio, our supposed friend, continued closing down schools this year after his disastrous and expensive “renewal school” project where instead of sending in resources that would actually help teachers, schools were loaded with consultants and teachers forced into often useless professional development.

In the past 15 years principals have been empowered as never before and they have the advantage of consulting with a massive amount of lawyers in DOE Legal who advise them the best ways to get rid of teachers they do not like while said teachers are often sitting there without a clue as to what is being done to them because the principals are working from a handbook while teachers are left defenseless. Teachers in NYC are subject to 4 drive-by observations a year under the despised Danielson rubric, while teachers in the rest of the state are only subject to two observations.

The job of a teacher has been deskilled through scripted instruction as attempts continue to remove qualifications needed to teach. How long before the DOE rolls trucks down the street every morning to search for people off the street to fill the classrooms for a day?

Meanwhile the charter school invasion continued, with certain parts of the city being so overloaded with charters, the very existence of local public schools are threatened.

Think of the poor people who succeeded us as being the proverbial frog in the pot of boiling water.

As you read this you are probably heaving a massive sigh of relief over finally being out from under this state of affairs.

Sadly, this entire degradation of our profession has taken place under the UFT stewardship of Unity Caucus, our opponents in this Retiree Chapter election. As retirees it may seem there is not a lot we can do restore the status our profession once enjoyed. But if you elect us to the leadership of the Retired Teachers Chapter, we will not only continue to defend our interests as retired UFT members but will also engage in a rigorous defense of our former profession by using our time in the Delegate Assembly to call our leadership to account for its failures to adequately stand up to the forces trying to destroy the profession many of us loved.

Can we really call ourselves a union of professionals?

VOTE Retiree Advocate/MORE/New Action.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

There IS a reason to vote in the upcoming Retired Teachers Chapter Election.

There IS a reason to vote in the upcoming Retired Teachers Chapter Election.

Retiree Advocate-MORE/NA/Independents - is running a slate and we need your participation.


We hope to get as many retirees as we can.
Unity Caucus occupies the DA with 300 elected members. The more people we run, the better able we are to challenge them!

The positions to be filed include a Chapter Chair, 10 Officers, 15 Executive Board members and 300 retired Delegates to the UFT Delegate Assembly. The logistics for participation are not complicated; we will take care of getting all necessary signatures on the nominating forms. All we need you to do is agree to run on the Retiree Advocate slate.

Why run with us?

MORE (Movement of Rank & File Educators) and NAC (New Action Caucus) have joined with Retiree Advocate to carry our message of union solidarity and transparency to the retiree community. Many long-time members of these active UFT caucuses are now in the RTC and will continue to work to promote a greater degree of activism among members. Retiree Advocate is committed to increasing rank and file democracy in our union. Let’s be inspired by the recent victory of our brothers and sisters in West Virginia who went out on strike and showed what rank & file union members could accomplish with activism and solidarity! We need to be concerned not only with conditions affecting retirees but also with issues affecting classroom teachers as well as larger social justice issues because they are all related.

If you want to participate with us, please reply to ASAP

When is the actual election?
Ballots will be mailed on Tuesday, May 15 and must be received by the American Arbitration Association by 8 a.m. Thursday, June 7. Ballots will be counted at the AAA at 120 Broadway.

What happens if we win?
Chances are slim but by running as full a slate as possible, we will be sending a message to UFT/Unity leadership: We do not accept the status quo and changes are necessary moving forward into the post Janus climate.

Seriously consider participating in this election.
Send an email to and let us know that you will be on our slate. We will need your: File # or SS#, Address, Email, Phone #
please reply to ASAP

We envision a union that actively promotes the creation of educated, organized, and mobilized school chapters. Our commitment is to vigorously work to:

● Preserve and improve our medical and prescription drug benefits
● Stop implementation of the “Cadillac Tax” on our health benefits
● Expand our Social Security benefits and ensure that they are not diminished or removed
● Win a (single payer) universal health program
● Improve our COLA and pension benefits

● Stop the right-wing agenda (Janus, etc.) and insist that our union leadership take more concrete and active measures towards this goal
● Defend our public schools and take a more active role in preventing them from being privatized
● We say No to Charters, vouchers and any system that creates unequal worker tiers
● Work to cut the excesses in the military budget (and in the military budget) and redirect monies to expand social services and benefits in local communities.

● We demand that the UFT take immediate steps to increase the degree of support for teachers working under abusive principals and administrators
● Work to eliminate pension “tiers” returning to a single pension level for all school employees
● Utilize our expertise and expand retiree involvement to inform, organize and mobilize school chapters

● In-service members should have greater voting weight when electing representation for union caucuses
● Change the current “winner take all” election system using proportional representation for union caucuses
● In-service members should vote for UFT district reps

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Video: YAFFED Press Conf - De Blasio, Farina, Felder Slammed

I reported on the upcoming press conference on Thursday -

YAFFED Press Conf to Protest Sham Rules for Hasidic and Orthodox Schools

Leonie Haimson was there as was former teacher and now city councilman Danny Dromm (head of the powerful finance committee) and David Bloomfield. And a now former IDC Senator whose name I won't mention - our pal Robert Jackson is primarying her.

Here is the complete video I took. I have some experience with the Hasidic political machine, having worked in District 14 in Williamsburg where they used to elect 3 out of the 9 members of the school board despite having no kids in the public schools - well some kids, but that a long a sordid story. They could have elected all 9 members if they wanted to. The deals made were astounding and as a Jew it was especially disconcerting to see how the 95% of the kids of color in the district were marginalized. Eventually $7 million dollars was "disappeared" illegally, which led to an invasion of the district office by the FBI and the US Postal Service. Both Superintendents died at an early age from cancer so there was a convenient excuse to put the blame on them and no one was every prosecuted. I could go on - but here we have former students at these school talking about how they were denied an education as the schools violated state ed laws which apply to every school. I asked if they get money from the state and city and he said YES - so these schools are not free to do what they want.

By the way - in our earliest years of teaching many of my friends had after school jobs in these schools to teach secular subjects and they said it was brutal work -- the kids disinterested and harder to teach than the public school kids.

These Hasidic communities have very high welfare rates - with Kiryas Joel, New York being the poorest in the nation - no talk about welfare queens - maybe kings in this case.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Danielson Rubric Update: Erik Mears Open Letter to Howard Schoor

Erik Mears from MORE has taken on issues related to Danielson. He appeared at a UFT Ex Bd meeting last month to raise a few of the issues he is concerned with. The UFT's Howard Schoor responded at a recent meeting and here Eric pursues the story.

Open Letter to UFT Secretary Howard Schoor (regarding Danielson Rubric)

Dear Mr. Howard Schoor,

You’ll recall that I addressed you and other UFT leaders at the High School Executive Board meeting in early March. I urged you, in light of four of the Danielson Rubric’s anti-labor sample comments, to demand that the DOE the discard Danielson and repair any damage that illegitimate portions of the Framework has done to teachers. You responded (via email) by noting that only one of the four comments corresponds to an element that teachers are currently evaluated on, and that that comment merely encourages administrators to violate the law in letter, but not in spirit. You added that if principals do follow the letter of the comment, teachers will have legal recourse, and the UFT will fight to defend them.

School Scope: Red State Teachers in Revolt – Can It Happen Here?

Published at on Friday April 6, 2018

School Scope: Red State Teachers in Revolt – Can It Happen Here?

By Norm Scott
April 2, 2018

As I write this on Monday morning, teachers in Oklahoma are on strike, following up on the 9 day strike in West Virginia and last Friday’s walkout by teachers in Kentucky (over pension cuts) which is continuing today. Arizona teachers are also threatening to strike. Many of these actions are wildcat strikes, meaning they are not being called by the unions themselves but by a membership in revolt, not only against the state, but their own union leaderships which have been forced to go along. “Union leaders haven’t been aggressive enough. We need to be more aggressive,” said Kentucky teacher Nema Brewer, one of the organizers.

That all these states are right-to-work (RTW) red states who voted for Trump by vast margins is no accident. Super majority Republican control of these states have cut taxes so much, especially on the energy companies, education has been cut to the bone, including teacher salaries. And since union members in RTW states don’t have to pay union agency shop fees, the union structures in these states are weakened, thus not having the infrastructure in place to control the members.

I assume most of the teachers in revolt are not left wing or even liberals. A number of them may have even voted for Trump. Usually in strikes you hear attacks against outside agitators. Not in these cases, as the revolts are truly from the grass roots. Are some of the deplorables engage in a militant revolt, including their own leadership? I know people who voted for Trump just because they were generally pissed off and are very militant against the Democrats who sold out teachers and the teacher unions that support them. This militancy may be carrying over into their unions.

The Supreme Court, in the Janus case, is about to make every state, including NY, RTW. One of the arguments used against Janus is that the unions are often partners with the states and in essence help restrain the members. I wonder if these red state teacher revolts, coming so soon before the Court rules, will influence the Justices.

What does that mean for militancy here in NYC where we have the largest and most entrenched union leadership in the nation, where Unity Caucus has enormous reach? Now if 30% leave the UFT, that is a massive reduction in incoming dues. The patronage machine and possibly the high salaries that keeps them coming to Unity take a hit and Unity begins to lose some control - and if people in the schools get pissed off enough, who knows? But I'm a realist. But my guess is that the politicians in NYS know better - to make sure the UFT leaders remain as strong as possible to assure there are no teacher revolts here. Watch Cuomo and the Democrats figure out ways to help the unions keep collecting dues since they know full well the leaders of the UFT are their friends.

Hear an audio feed of a conversation with West Virginia and Oklahoma teachers at:

Norm is always revolting at